By Ray Yungen
From a theological viewpoint, there now exist two branches (so to speak) of the Catholic Church—the traditional (as defended by someone like Karl Keating in his book Catholicism and Fundamentalism) and the progressive or contemplative* element (as exemplified by Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen).1 And while these two branches (or movements) can be seen at times as contradictory to each other, there are many Catholics who straddle both sides of the fence. At least in part, this is because the Eucharist, which is the essence or focal point of traditional Catholicism, also has a mystical element that appeals to the meditating or New Age Catholic. In summary, the traditional Catholic Church emphasizes sin and how to avoid it with the Mass. It places the emphasis on Mary, the sacraments, and purgatory. Although that branch of the Catholic Church is running strong, ever increasingly, it is the contemplative branch that defines Roman Catholicism. This newer “progressive” branch emphasizes mysticism, panentheism, and interspirituality, which will help propel the apostate church into a new-world order.
For those readers unfamiliar with these terms, mysticism is the practice of seeking direct contact with the supernatural realm; panentheism is the view that God is in everything that exists; and interspirituality is the belief that all religions are linked together at the mystical level. In fact, I have written a book and numerous booklets documenting that the “progressive” element of the Catholic Church is part of what is known as the New Age. In a number of New Age bookstores, I have seen sections devoted to Catholic mysticism, which indicates that New Agers themselves share my conclusions.
Let us now examine the way in which evangelicals have dropped their traditional objections toward Catholic dogma and have rushed headlong into the arms of Catholic mysticism. The following people began seeking spiritual nourishment from the mystical branch of the Catholic Church in order to alleviate personal spiritual crises and are now passing this on to the evangelical church at large: Ruth Haley Barton, Kenneth Boa, Larry Crabb, James Goll, Tony Campolo, Eugene Peterson, Pete Scazzero, Leonard Sweet, Richard Foster, and Dallas Willard. These and many other evangelical leaders have tapped into the Catholic mystical tradition to go “deeper” with God.
But these emergent** evangelicals don’t understand the dangers behind their attraction to the Catholic contemplative tradition. A major proponent of this tradition, Catholic priest William Shannon, said the following about Thomas Merton, who was without a doubt the main icon of the contemplative prayer movement:
If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East [interspirituality] it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East [panentheism].2 (emphasis added)
Shannon makes our point here. He is saying that Merton drew on the Roman Catholic mystical tradition, and the experiences that resulted propelled him into the same realm that Buddhist and Hindu mystics experience. And this is the general outcome of those who embrace contemplative spirituality.
Catholic monk Wayne Teasdale (1945-2004) was a major practitioner and promoter of contemplative prayer. He illustrated what happens when a person becomes actively involved with contemplative spirituality. In his book, The Mystic Heart, he explains how he changed after he embraced the same prayer method being promoted in the evangelical church through what is popularly called Spiritual Formation:
I began to appreciate and value other traditions. I discovered that Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism [Islamic mysticism], the Kabbalah [Jewish mysticism], and Hasidism did not take me away from my faith, but augmented my deep commitment to Christian contemplation. I became impassioned in my interest in these traditions, and how they related to the Christian faith. . . . the intermystical life . . . realizes that we all have a much greater heritage than simply our own tradition . . . Everything must be included.3 (emphasis added)
This is what William Shannon was stating. When a person goes down this path, he soon finds himself in the interspiritual frame of mind. But to be biblical, intermingling of religions is impossible because the apostle Paul clearly emphasized the opposite to be true:
But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. (1 Corinthians 10: 20-21)
Incidentally, Hindus and Buddhists sacrifice to idols. Likewise, Jesus said:
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)
Ironically, learning contemplative prayer means learning word or phrase repetition; it is the way of entering into the mystical realm.
The contemplative prayer movement is connected to New Age panentheism and interspirituality, and in short, all this is leading to a universal one-world religion that will be ready to receive the Antichrist when he comes. Sometimes, it helps to know what lies ahead at the end of the road, and that is especially true in this case.
* Contemplative prayer is a practice that has entered the evangelical church through the Spiritual Formation movement and has its roots in Catholic mysticism and panentheism (God is in all things). The practice entails repeating a word or phrase (often called a sacred word) in order to “remove distractions,” put the mind into a neutral state, and in this altered state, the contemplative practitioner hopes to hear the voice of God. I discuss contemplative spirituality and its dangers in depth in my book, A Time of Departing.
** Emergent or “emerging church” refers to those who follow a loose set of doctrines promoting a redefinition of Christianity and incorporating into their fellowships some or all of the following: Roman Catholic mysticism and contemplative prayer, eastern meditation techniques, pagan religious practices such as walking the labyrinth, Lectio Divina, entering the silence, mantras, etc. The emerging/emergent church is highly ecumenical, and the focus is on social justice and cultural relevancy rather than the Gospel and the Word of God. Emphasis is on a social gospel as opposed to a personal Gospel. (This definition taken from Kevin Reeves booklet D is for Deception: The Language of the New Christianity published by Lighthouse Trails.)
1. Read A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd edition, 2006).
2. William Shannon, Silent Lamp, The Thomas Merton Story (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), p. 281.
3. Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2001 edition, first paperback printing), p. 236.
(photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)